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The Envelope Please: Our 2024 Hall of Fame Crowdsource Ballot Results and a Preview of Election Day

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David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2024 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. For a tentative schedule, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

If the BBWAA voters are only as generous as the FanGraphs readers who participated in this year’s Hall of Fame crowdsource ballot, just two candidates will get the nod when the Hall announces the election results on Tuesday, January 23 at 6 PM Eastern — both of them newcomers. In this year’s edition of our annual polling, which drew the highest turnout of the six years in which we’ve conducted this exercise, Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer both topped 75%, while five other candidates received at least 64% but fell short. That group includes Todd Helton and Billy Wagner, both of whom have reasonable shots at getting their tickets to Cooperstown punched this week.

I’ll get to what the tea leaves are saying based upon the writers’ ballots that have been revealed, but first, let’s consider the readers’ entries. Registered users who participated in our poll were each allowed to submit one ballot with up to 10 candidates by the end of the day on December 31, just like roughly 400 BBWAA voters did for this year’s actual election — only the ink-stained wretches had to get to a mailbox with a prepaid envelope, where our users voted electronically. On the heels of last year’s record-low crowdsource turnout, this year we received over three times as many votes, a record high:

FanGraphs Hall of Fame Crowdsource History

YearVotesElected*
20191,2137 (Martinez, Rivera, Mussina, Bonds, Clemens, Halladay, Walker)
20201,4404 (Jeter, Walker, Bonds, Clemens)
20211,1523 (Rolen, Bonds, Clemens)
20221,0183 (Rolen, Bonds, Clemens)
20235483 (Rolen, Helton, Sheffield)
20241,6572 (Beltré, Mauer)

* listed in descending order of percentages received.

Our largest electorate actually produced the smallest number of honorees thus far. It’s not that these voters were ungenerous, as they averaged 7.96 names per ballot. That’s up from last year’s 7.55, and 2021’s 7.65, but down from the ’22 average of 8.62; those numbers are all at least 1.5 names larger than the annual BBWAA averages in that timeframe. Forty-three percent of our voters used all 10 slots, up from 29.6% last year but down from 59% in 2022 — again, well ahead of the BBWAA electorate’s actual rates. At the other end of the spectrum, 7.9% used three or fewer slots, compared to 6.4% in 2023 and 8.9% in ’22. What was rather puzzling was that we did have 14 blank ballots this year, compared to just one last year, but those blanks weren’t the difference between making it and missing it for any of the candidates.

Here’s the full rundown, with comparisons to each candidate’s totals in the last two cycles — not just last year but also 2022, the final year of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (and to a lesser extent Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa) taking up a whole lot of space on our readers’ ballots:

Hall of Fame Crowdsource: 2024 vs. ’23 and ’22

Every returning candidate save for Hunter received a lower share of the vote from our crowd than last year. That’s particularly surprising when it comes to Helton, who cleared the 75% bar easily last year but fell short this year, mirroring his difficulty in closing the deal via the public ballots (more on which shortly). Sheffield barely made it last year, with 75% on the button, but by this process experienced the largest drop of any holdover in the final year of his candidacy. Beltrán and Jones, who weren’t far below 75% last year, fell back by slightly less than Helton, and Wagner, who was just 5.1 points short last year, slipped in the other direction by a margin wider than that.

Every candidate received at least eight votes, with at least one and possibly two first-year candidates, Wright and Colon, topping 5% here where they might not on the actual ballot. On the other hand, Vizquel and Hunter are likely to get 5% in the actual balloting and retain their eligibility, but our voters are considerably less convinced that they should.

As for what to make of it all, I think two factors best explain what we’re seeing from the crowd. First, in Beltré, Mauer, Utley, and even Wright, this was the strongest crop of first-year candidates since either 2018, when Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Rolen, and Jones (plus Vizquel) all debuted, or ’19, when Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, and Helton all arrived, increasing the likelihood that voters had to make hard choices about who to leave off. Second, the larger turnout — 54% larger than the 2019–23 average — suggests that this exercise reached a broader and more diverse audience than usual, with more differences of opinion than in years past.

Within the 43% of voters (714) who used all 10 slots, there were 342 different combinations of candidates to get there. The most popular combo by far, with 73 such ballots (4.4% of the vote overall), included Beltré, Beltrán, Helton, Jones, Mauer, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Sheffield, Utley, and Wagner. In second, cast a total of 32 times (1.9% overall), was a 10-man ballot that swapped Abreu for Wagner while keeping the others from that group constant. Meanwhile, eight other voters matched my 10-man ballot of Abreu, Beltré, Beltrán, Helton, Jones, Mauer, Pettitte, Sheffield, Utley, and Wagner, twice the total of last year.

As for how this all compares to the results to date from actual voters, here’s a look at where things stood as of 8:00 AM ET on Monday, with 191 ballots published in Ryan Thibodaux’s Ballot Tracker:

2024 Hall of Fame Crowdsource vs. Ballot Tracker

PlayerYoB2024 Crowdsource2024 TrackerDifference
Adrián Beltré190.8%99.0%8.2%
Joe Mauer181.1%83.2%2.1%
Todd Helton673.7%82.2%8.5%
Billy Wagner964.1%78.5%14.4%
Gary Sheffield1065.8%74.3%8.5%
Andruw Jones768.0%70.7%2.7%
Carlos Beltrán266.4%66.5%0.1%
Chase Utley156.1%41.4%-14.7%
Alex Rodriguez360.6%39.3%-21.3%
Manny Ramírez850.3%35.1%-15.2%
Bobby Abreu537.7%19.4%-18.3%
Andy Pettitte620.2%15.2%-5.0%
Jimmy Rollins38.2%15.2%7.0%
Omar Vizquel73.6%10.5%6.9%
Mark Buehrle410.8%7.9%-2.9%
David Wright111.5%6.8%-4.7%
Francisco Rodríguez27.3%6.8%-0.5%
Torii Hunter44.9%4.7%-0.2%
José Bautista12.1%1.6%-0.5%
Víctor Martínez10.8%1.0%0.2%
Bartolo Colón16.0%0.5%-5.5%
Matt Holliday13.7%0.5%-3.2%
Adrián González10.8%0.0%-0.8%
Brandon Phillips11.1%0.0%-1.1%
James Shields10.5%0.0%-0.5%
José Reyes10.5%0.0%-0.5%

SOURCE: http://tracker.fyi

In a sample that’s estimated to account for just under 50% of the electorate, Helton and Wagner are tracking above 75% along with Beltré and Mauer, with Sheffield just short of the mark. The top seven candidates in the Tracker all have higher shares from actual voters than they received from our FanGraphs crowd. At the same time, our group was far more supportive of the PED-linked Ramirez and Rodriguez (and to a lesser extent Sheffield, who unlike the other two was never suspended). They were also, unsurprisingly, more supportive of stathead favorites Abreu and Utley, and less supportive of old-school favorites Rollins and Hunter. They were also much more keen on Colon, a fan favorite despite having drawn a PED suspension in 2012.

As for what it all means for Tuesday, historically speaking every candidate who has polled above 80% in the ballots published before the results has been elected, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich. That would seem to be good news for Helton and Mauer (we can assume Beltré is a lock), but the caveat is that two or three dozen more ballots could be released before the announcement, bumping those pre-election percentages down while keeping the streak intact. As Rakich also pointed out, Helton’s largest drop-off from public ballot percentage to final percentage (-6.4%) would still leave him above 75%, though in the six days since he’s made that observation, Wagner, whose largest drop-off is -4.2%, has slid to the point where he’d be an agonizing near-miss.

Meanwhile, forecaster Jason Sardell’s probabilistic model — which groups voters based upon the number of candidates they include on their ballots and their electoral stance on PED users, and which has been the most accurate predictive system in the industry for several years running — showed both Helton and Wagner in toss-up territory at the 185-ballot mark, but with Mauer in the clear:

As Sardell explained in a follow-up Tweet, his model is more optimistic about Mauer than Helton despite their similar published percentages “because Mauer has gotten votes from 72% of 2023 ‘small hall’ voters compared to 51% for Helton. And most remaining ballots are from small hall voters.” Similarly, a look at the ballot size breakdowns compiled by the Tracker team’s Adam Dore shows that Mauer is 8-for-23 (34.8%) on ballots from this year containing four names or fewer and 56-for-65 (86.2%) on those with five to seven names; that’s 72.7%. Helton is 7-for-23 (30.4%) in the former and 50-for-65 (76.9%) in the latter, and so 64.8% for the two groups combined.

One reason to be less optimistic about Helton’s chances comes via the Tracker’s net vote tally. Last year, he missed election by just 11 votes. Historically, candidates who have received at least 70% but less than 75% and still had eligibility remaining have gone 20-for-24 in modern voting history, and within the decade-plus lifespan of the Tracker, we’ve been able to watch as near-miss candidates have seen enough flips from no to yes to suggest that they’ll make it. Helton, however, has netted just two additional votes by this measure thus far, with seven returning voters adding him but five dropping him; according to Dore, three of those flipped from no to yes last year, but for some reason have changed their minds. Wagner, who missed by 27 votes last year, is net +6, with nine adds and three drops, all from fickle voters who reversed last year’s flip. What could save Helton is that he’s gone 13-for-15 (86.7%) among first-time voters. Only Beltré (100%) has a higher shares among the rookies, while Mauer and Sheffield (73.3%) have gotten a bit less support from that demographic.

One of the oft-voiced complaints about voters publishing their ballots before the announcement is that it somehow ruins the suspense and surprise of the election day, yet this ballot and several other recent ones illustrate the opposite effect. With nearly half of the ballots unpublished before the envelope was opened, the fates of candidates like Walker (83.2% pre-election, 76.6% final in 2020), Schilling (77.3% pre-election, 70% final in 2020, then 71.1% and 72.4% in ’21), David Ortiz (83.4% pre-election, 77.9% final in 2022), and Rolen (80.1% pre-election, 76.3% final in 2023) have made for compelling drama. The Hall itself is well aware of this, which is why it’s never tried to crack down on voters revealing their ballots ahead of time. A suggestion from within the BBWAA to cut it out at last month’s winter meetings was practically laughed out of the room before it could even be formalized into a proposal and put to a vote.

And so we wait, wondering if Cooperstown will get one, two, three or even four new honorees on Tuesday. This is exciting stuff! Pass the popcorn.

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